Hite/KMAC Summer Fellow Explores the Permanent Collection

By Hunter Kissel, Hite/KMAC Curatorial Fellow for Summer 2015

Hunter has completed his first year in graduate school pursing a dual Master in Public Administration/Master of Arts in Critical and Curatorial Studies at the Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville; he is a native Louisvillian.

I received my undergraduate degree from Transylvania University in Studio Art last May and now am pursuing a Master degree in Critical and Curatorial Studies at the Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville. The shift from amateur art-maker to aspiring exhibition producer has provided its share of challenges, namely in the language and art historical methods I now use. My personal appetite for participation in the broader arts community, however, has remained the same. The school year ended in the early weeks of May, and I began researching summer opportunities. I was soon offered a fellowship at KMAC.

Denzil Goodpaster. Selected works.
Denzil Goodpaster. Selected works.

As part of the Fellowship, I was given the chance to use KMAC’s permanent collection to display a selection of works in their Brown Forman Gallery. Director Aldy Milliken and Associate Curator Joey Yates often use the summer months to present works from the collection in a gallery setting, and this was sure to be a great chance to practice some of the curatorial methods I had been learning in school. KMAC begins planning their exhibitions as far as two years out in some cases, so completing the show in little over one month seemed like a tall order.

KMAC’s permanent collection contains works by acclaimed regional and national folk artists. Artists from Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia are heavily represented in the collection, and as a result themes of economic agriculture, religion, American identity, and wildlife are all very present. After browsing the catalogue of KMAC’s permanent collection and inspecting some of these artworks in person, I was able to narrow down my selection for the exhibition to about twenty pieces. I selected many of these Appalachian artists as well as some contemporary local artists working in glass, photography, or patchwork.

The selection process was not an easy one. While many of these artworks deserve to be shown, a number of constraints surfaced and I was unable to include objects I really admire. My conversations with Joey Yates were emphasized with the notion that “less is more.” The idea of a cluttered gallery made us uneasy, and subsequently space had to be compromised in order to include a diversity of artists as well as multiple works by the same artist when their breadth required it. Each object needed “room to breathe” (as the popular saying goes), and my selections were heavily influenced by the gallery space itself.

Marvin Finn, Crane 1980
Marvin Finn, Crane 1980

The final title of the exhibition was simple—Highlights from the Permanent Collection. There was no need to contextualize these works. The collection speaks for itself. The final display includes artists like Earnest Patton, one of the most renowned artists in KMAC’s collection, who carves human figures with precision and clean technique. His depiction of Adam and Eve is as topical as that of his mermaid or woman in a swimsuit. Minnie Adkins’ use of a fox motif translates fluidly from woodcarving to quilt, demonstrating the artist’s ability to execute in a variety of mediums. Carl McKenzie’s figures stand as anomalies, distanced from the comparable work produced by Patton, Denzil Goodpaster, and Junior Lewis. His splotched Lady Liberty and Red Cross Nurse are vibrant takes on popular subjects. Finally, Marvin Finn and his flock of familiar birds are at hand within KMAC’s collection.

The resulting exhibition advocates for the importance of collecting. Under Milliken and Yates, KMAC is transforming from an artist-represented gallery into an archival museum. KMAC’s current collection is a solid foundation for a more expansive holding of artworks. Highlights marks a checkpoint for an evolving institution.

Highlights from the Permanent Collection, curated by Hunter Kissel, will be on display in the Brown Forman Gallery at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft until mid-September. To see more from the exhibition, visit http://www.kmacmuseum.org. 

Guest: KMAC Couture and the Interoperability of Louisville

Image by Joey Goldsmith.
“Exposed” by Gunnar Deatherage. Image by Joey Goldsmith.

By Dianne H. Timmering

The interoperability of Louisville—a boast for best city for jobs and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft: We are a full-bodied movement—restaurants, life quality, home uniqueness, neighborhood simplicity, city art, brilliant theatre, healthcare metropolis, UPS hub to the world, and 16,000 job openings … good ones.

Another reason why Kentucky boasts Louisville as one of the best U.S. cities for jobs is our cultural “reachings”, our budding artistry ….

Recently, I went to a most unexpected glorious celebration of the human element—one of triumph and dedication, one depicting the loneliness of an artist in their creation of the soul, knowing they could bend and create something out of a material that was never meant for or discovered for such a thing as a “wearable.” The art of the heart was worth the suffering to get from the soul and into the crafted pleat of a skirt, the still of a sleeve, the lift of a collar, the bead of a shoe. But these were no ordinary sleeves, or skirts, ruffles or shoes.

This was #KMACCouture 2015— a fashion show fundraiser for the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, a title not worthy enough for the display of creative freedom that I witnessed as art lived in the embodiment of the dress, the construction of materials that were never meant to glide along the mellifluous elegance of the human curve or press into the sensuous skin.

"Sweet P" by Frances Lewis. Photo by Joey Goldsmith.
“Sweet P” by Frances Lewis. Photo by Joey Goldsmith.

The audience was us, the women of Louisville (and a few brave and stylish men). The “us” was gorgeous, clad in the clash of white, the din of expectation, a sea of lightness, airy like we were a pillowed cloud and whatever was coming through the curtain was going to float.

And float it did. The show started; it was a fashion show unlike any I had seen before.

Angst was in the tulle, hope in the sleeveless, bare of the vulnerable arm. Every cloak had a story, every piece a design the eye simply couldn’t get enough of. Details as exquisite in the front as they were in the back. Art from such unexpected mediums worn because they could be. Art reflected in the embodiment of the dress. The greatest expression of self.

The art of canvas, the harshness and lack of dexterity in the material and yet with truffles and waves molded into an elegance that became a most decorous evening gown; one that would find the party in the evening and could possibly dismantle into enough of a tent that if a young hangover got old, warmth and forbearance could be found in the heat of the bundle.

A gown made of broken teacups, time owned in a past era interwoven, sitting on the ledge of fabric, like they might on the edge of a cupboard shelf, but polished, vibrant and used.

Elegant beauty reminiscent of the 17th century English dress made out of duct tape. A Cinderella gown made of mini-marathon medal ribbons, of no value except to the individual who flees through 13.2 miles, but collectively make an invaluable moment.

Dress by Peyton Froula. Photo by Joey Goldsmith.
“Off to the Races” by Peyton Froula. Photo by Joey Goldsmith.

A skirt made of matches.

A ball gown of mop heads, plucked from cores, flipped, dismantled, dyed into elegant threads along the husk of cardboard which carried the slight frame of the model, whisking her down the dusty path, a shine of elegance, its full skirt never forgetting where it came from and where it was going.

Centuries of style replete in silent materials of the day to day but repositioned to power up this glorious night in the city of many jobs and endless hope.

Every piece with worth, the eye of appeal. And then it was over and I knew I had seen more than a fashion show, but an exhibit of artistry that moved, flowed and flourished down the path of must. Because an artist, for we all are in our own capacity of depth, must be, or an artist dies. We must try, even if the piece fails because there is peace in the piece of attempt and then we try again. And that is good.

We are a city capturing the artistry of self where one can be unbridled in the brilliance of simply being.

 

Dianne H. Timmering is the Vice President of Spirituality and Legislative Affairs for Signature HealthCARE. For more information about KMAC Couture, visit kmacmuseum.org.